Construction Administration

How to create a more effective RFI process

Efficient management of RFIs is critical to project success. However, this process is often overlooked. This guide will explain the ins and outs of RFIs and offer tips on how you can streamline this process.

RFI - walking the siteResearch shows that the average construction project will have over 800 RFIs. This figure surges past 1,400 for endeavors extending beyond five years. Response times vary from 6.4 to 9.7 days depending on the region. Particularly noteworthy is the disproportionate impact of RFIs on smaller projects, where those valued between $5 million and $50 million encounter a staggering 17.2 RFIs per $1 million of construction cost.

At their essence, RFIs serve as vital conduits for information exchange. They help project stakeholders eliminate ambiguities and ensure all parties are aligned on specifics. Yet, without careful oversight, the burden of managing this process can lead to inefficiencies and reduce project profit.

This guide delves into strategies designed to refine your RFI process so you can create the best outcome for your project possible.

What is an RFI?

An RFI (or Request for Information) is a workflow process that seeks to clarify plans, drawings, specifications, or agreements. This ensures all stakeholders have a comprehensive understanding of specific project aspect or requirements.

In the construction sector, a Request for Information (RFI) becomes necessary when there's missing information in the construction documents. RFIs are typically initiated by the general contractor, but may also be initiated by subcontractors. Upon receiving responses from the client or architect, RFI responses are shared with all relevant parties.

Historically, RFIs were managed through spreadsheets. However, today many organizations use construction management software tools or document management systems to streamline the RFI process. Software tools that are dynamic allow instantaneous sharing of information. In turn this saves time, reduces expenses, and enhances the quality of the construction process.

What is typically included in an RFI?

RFI format may vary based on the specific information being requested. However there are several common components typically included in an RFI within the construction industry, such as:

  • A question, objective or summary of the request
  • A proposed timeline for resolution
  • Documentation such as photos, spec sheets, or highlights from relevant documents
  • Details on who is submitting the RFI and appropriate due dates

RFIs vs. RFPs?

RFIs are often confused with RFPs as both are used frequently in the procurement process. During procurement, RFIs are often used to assess the capabilities and offerings of potential suppliers. They allow organizations to gather detailed information about the products, services, and qualifications of various vendors.

While RFIs seek information or clarification, RFPs invite bids for services or projects. Another common acronym: Request for Quotes (RFQs) request pricing for specific products or services. Understanding these distinctions is key to effective project and procurement management.

The RFI Process in Construction

Creation of RFIs in the construction process involves several key steps:

  1. drafting the RFI,
  2. submission to the appropriate party,
  3. awaiting a response, and
  4. then incorporating that response into the project workflow.

This process ensures that any issues or uncertainties are addressed promptly, minimizing delays and cost overruns.

Types of RFIs

RFIs can range from queries about material specifications to requests for clarification on design drawings or construction techniques. Some common types include:


Tips on streamlining the construction RFI process

  1. Craft a clear and concise request

Writing an RFI involves articulating the query clearly and concisely, providing sufficient background information, and, if possible, suggesting potential solutions or alternatives. A well-crafted RFI should be easy to understand, and easy to reply to, and aid smooth progression of the project.

2. Respond to RFIs in a timely manner

Responding to an RFI requires the recipient to provide the requested information or clarification in a clear and comprehensive manner. Timely responses are crucial to maintain project momentum and avoid unnecessary delays. The RFI response should address the query directly, offering solutions or further instructions as needed.

3. Add relevant supporting documentation

Add photos, files, and any other information that the other party may need to make a decision.

4. Use a RFI specific tools instead of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets and Word documents are static. Even if the document is hosted on a file sharing service, they may not instantly update and they do not have built in notification capabilities.

5. Standardize your RFI process and deploy an RFI template(s)

RFI templates are standardized forms used to ensure that all necessary information is provided when an RFI is submitted. A templatized approach maintains consistency and completeness across all RFIs issued. This makes it easier for recipients to understand and respond to the request.


The Request for Information (RFI) is a fundamental component of project management and procurement, serving as a critical tool for clarifying project details, resolving

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